IINGA ARVAD was the great love of President John F. Kennedy’s life. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, she was also the special guest of an adoring Adolf Hitler who repeatedly gave her exclusive interviews and honored her with gifts and a private lunch.
In a life more fascinating than fiction, Inga was an actress, foreign correspondent, Washington columnist, explorer who lived among a tribe headhunters, one of Hollywood’s most influential gossip columnists, and a suspected Nazi spy.
The latter caught the attention of the FBI. They tapped her phone and bugged her apartment, recording her lovemaking bouts with Kennedy.
Walter Winchell spilled the beans, which nearly got Kennedy, then an ensign in the Office of Naval Intelligence, cashiered out of the navy. Instead, his romance with Inga set him on a path to becoming a war hero, which set the stage for his political career.
Inga’s joie de vivre attracted great and brilliant men. She married an Egyptian diplomat who would insist they had never divorced; the brilliant filmmaker Paul Fejos whom Charlie Chaplin considered a genius; and finally the cowboy movie star Tim McCoy.
She was engaged to Winston Churchill’s right-hand man, was adored by renowned writer John Gunther, and the world’s richest man, Swedish industrialist and international arms dealer Axel Wenner-Gren offered her $1 million to have his child.
Her rollicking story demonstrates how private lives influence public events. It is also a Hitchcockian rale of how difficult it can be to prove innocence when unjustly accused, and how, as Inga phrased it: “What had been a halo fell down and became a noose.”